BEAVERCREEK — A Beavercreek Girl Scout used her Gold Award Project to bring her own love of robotics to students in downtown Dayton.
For seven years, Neeti Prasad, a junior at Dayton Regional STEM School, has been a part of the For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) robotics program, learning about mechanical engineering and computer programming.
“When I thought about the impact robotics had on my life, I thought about kids who do not have access to such experiences. There are many kids in our community who are absolutely brilliant. Each child has a talent and potential that needs to be tapped into,” Prasad said. “Unfortunately, they are not always aware of these opportunities or encouraged to pursue them in the first place. This positive experience is taken away from some kids causing them to fall through the cracks.”
The 17-year-old from Beavercreek Troop 32725 took her passion and put it into action.
“I was specifically interested in reaching out to inner-city kids who were not aware of available robotics programs,” Prasad said. “I was in search of middle-school students who would benefit from participating in the FIRST Lego League (FLL) program.”
Prasad found Kids In New Directions (KIND), an after-school program in downtown Dayton that gives students in Kindergarten through eighth grade access to tutoring and extracurricular activities.
“Many of the students who attend KIND are African refugees,” Prasad said. “After touring the center, I was immediately drawn to working with these students and making a difference in their lives. I wanted to show the kids at KIND a future in STEM by introducing STEM through robotics.”
Prasad visited the center twice a week, teaching the students how to build robots out of Legos and do basic block programming.
“I explained the concept of programming and described how programming allows the robot to move, through an activity,” she said. “I laid out different objects on the ground and blindfolded one of the kids. The other kids had to give directions to the blindfolded student to navigate the maze without hitting any of the objects. At the end, I compared how the blindfolded student was like a programmed robot. The directions they gave the blindfolded kid such as ‘move forward’ and ‘turn’ was similar to the steps we would program.”
For Prasad, who hopes to be a teacher one day, the project went beyond introducing students to robotics and real-world STEM fields.
“The dream of being able to positively influence and contribute to a child’s life and advance their education has stayed with me for years,” she said. “The most important idea to bring out in a classroom is to connect the skills and concepts you are currently learning to how it applies to the real-world. By doing this, we give education a larger purpose … If I do become a teacher one day, I will always remember what these kids taught me about being an effective instructor.”
Prasad, who has been in Girl Scouts since first grade, received her Gold Award March 1. She plans to study biomedical engineering when she graduates.
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